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Since 1st March, 1999
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Potter magic makes Hollywood chant twin mantras

Los Angeles, June 8 (Reuters): Harry Potter worked some more box office magic and had Hollywood wondering yesterday if new trends of global debuts and strong sequels were developing at movie houses.

Box office tracker Exhibitor Relations Co. Inc. raised the final weekend US and Canadian ticket sales for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by $1 million to $93.7 million.

The Potter opening marks the second straight sequel to get off to a strong start this summer season along with May movie Shrek 2, following several high-profile disappointments last year like Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle.

Computer-animated Shrek 2 became the quickest new release to surpass the $300 million mark with a total $314.5 million.

It took 18 days to cross that threshold compared to 22 days for Spider-Man, said DreamWorks distribution chief Jim Tharpe.

But it was the third Potter, estimated to cost Warner Bros $150 million, that had Hollywood wondering if other of this year’s sequels can beat their predecessors — as did Potter — and how many more movies will get global debuts.

Internationally, the British boy wizard conjured $114 million, including a week of sales in the UK.

It played in 24 overseas markets, overall.

Producer David Heyman attributed its success to several factors including older kids turning up in droves. They grew up reading the books and continue to follow the movies.

Teens are a core group that repeats trips to theatres for popular films.

“Our audience base is expanding. We’re bringing in the newer audiences and retaining the teenagers,” he said.

Good reviews and the direction from Mexico’s Alfonso Cuaron, whose previous hit Y Tu Mama Tambien had adult themes, brought in older audiences, too, Heyman said.

Will it Scale the Same Heights' A scene from Spider-Man 2

The Azkaban start has some Hollywood watchers wondering if it can beat Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone and Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets in total box office.

Doing so would not be unprecedented, but would be outside normal box office patterns for sequels.

Wall Street analyst Michael Gallant of CIBC World Markets sees a mixed outlook due to the competitive summer season.

Gallant sees Azkaban on track to post $875 million in global ticket sales, down from $969 million for Sorcerer’s Stone but ahead of $866 million for Chamber of Secrets.

Movie executives say that Shrek 2 and Potter are playing well because they earned solid reviews and strong endorsements from friend to friend. Full Throttle failed that test.

The experts await Spider-Man 2 (June 30) and The Bourne Supremacy (July 23) to see if the trend holds.

Meanwhile, more summer releases are slated for same-day global debuts as was Troy, Van Helsing, and The Day After Tomorrow to counteract piracy and use global media coverage.

The experts said certain elements are needed to launch movies worldwide: a big star like Brad Pitt in Troy, a brand like Potter or an issue like global warming in Tomorrow.

“If you have something that has scale and relevance, you want to take advantage of that opportunity,” said Stephen Moore, head of Twentieth Century Fox International.

Fox, a unit of News Corp. Ltd., distributed The Day After Tomorrow.

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